Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hot topic: Round I

An SF K Files visitor brought up the following topic:

"I'm wondering how everyone is feeling about Round I. I turned in my form last week. And I mailed in a few private school applications--what a huge relief to have those done. I'm feeling optimistic and assuming that I'll get something but I'm wondering how others are feeling?"


  1. Brace yourselves and make sure you really understand that Round I is only the beginning. This is going to be a very tough year for applicants - there are more applicants from more preschools that historically did not apply. But often many of those families opt out of public - so stick with the process!!!

  2. You'll have more of a chance if you included one or more of the so-called hidden gems, any school that isn't oversubscribed. Unfortunately it can be hard to guess which these are--we all know Clarendon is tiny tiny tiny odds, but it's amazing how fast Flynn has risen in the ranks to become popular.

    If you put no gems, then, definitely, brace yourself. It usually works out in the end, *if* you are willing to go all the way through the waitpools and into the fall (many drop out before then, especially with school start looming in August).

    The only thing is that doing it this way requires nerves of steel. If you really want something in Round 1, make sure a (truly) less popular school (Flynn and McKinley and Milk do not count) is on the list--and there are some good ones, and up-and-comers. Such a school can at least be a backup if not a first choice, and provide some serenity while you keep your name in a waitpool.

    In any case, I hope you do get something! Good luck to all.

  3. I think that many families who would go to a private school may look into a public one since the economy is so bad right now. I think you might find that many families might change to public if they can get their child into a school which they feel is decent enough.

  4. I feel powerless and lucky in this round 1.

    Three years ago, my attendance area school was in never mentioned. Now, its hot! We are lucky.

    I have no power to ensure we get the it. We are powerless.

    In the last two months, I have seen some amazing public schools.

  5. 2:58, do put it first on your list if you really want it. The attendance area may help you. Good luck!

  6. I feel fairly glum about the whole thing. We're trying for public or private, have spent a LOT of time trying to figure out not only what would be best for our family but what we could settle for - all the while knowing that it's entirely possible we will get nothing. I like this city a little less than I did before we began this ridiculous process - and it's not even March, when the anxiety really begins for many families. It's got me questioning whether living in the city is really worth it - and until now, I considered myself a committed city dweller.

  7. You know... when I started the process I was intimidated and discouraged knowing how terrible the odds are that we'd get into a "good" one. But, lo and behold, as we've toured, I have felt like they're all "good".
    I think my daughter would be happy pretty much anywhere, but now my husband and I have to agree on the list, the order, etc.
    I really appreciate all the reviews on this site, and the thoughts and information coming from everyone.
    Of course we're nervous and all that, but if you think about what public schools were like in our day (no ballet, no symphony, no computer lab, no parent involvement, dangerous playgrounds, bullies... sheesh the list goes on), I think our kids will do great!

  8. 8:35, I know it's stressful, but once you are through it you'll more than likely settle in and be pretty happy. I know there are exceptions but most of my friends, in my cohort, are very happy with their schools. Some took a little longer to get there, but then they were also the ones holding out for a particular and hard-to-get school. Which they did get but they had to wait until after school started to get the call. I was happier to put a less-popular choice with better odds, myself, one that has since risen on the charts.

    And once you've been in it for awhile you realize that for most families it is what you make of it--that is, most of our kids do just fine due to support at home, and you learn to be glad for the particular great things at your school--be that teachers, parent community, art classes, language, etc. I would have been just as happy somewhere else, but I have learned to love our school. There are plenty of good schools out there, and I have also found they are way better than when I went to school.

    This year of getting into kindergarten is a definite rite of passage in SF. But it does pass, and you move on. Kind of like going through labor, you sort of forget the pain once it's past.

    Guess I saying all this by way of urging you to hang in there. A year from now you'll be active in the PTA somewhere and talking up your school to the next cohort at your kid's old preschool, and at the playground.

  9. Great post, 11:09.

    Taking the long view, as the involved parent of a 12th-grader and a 9th-grader, the increasingly rapid turnarounds in schools' reputations is just astounding.

    Addressing this to newcomers: When my family was first touring schools (starting in fall '95 for fall '96 K), the word throughout our circle was that there were "only five good schools in the district," and if you didn't get one of them you had to go private or move. I haven't counted, but I think I will, to see how many schools now get more first-choice requests than they have openings. The number of "hot" schools has multiplied.

    I swear that in watching the process from afar last year (mostly via this blog), I saw schools go from unpopular in the first lottery round to oversubscribed in the second. (Sunnyside, Jose Ortega Mandarin and Flynn GE are some examples.) That's very stressful for parents going through the process, but a great thing for the schools and the district (and thus for all the children in our community) overall.

    A key thing to understand (again, for newcomers) is that a school that copes with a critical mass of high-need, low-income students is likely to be overwhelmed and remain a "struggling" or "failing" school. Low-income students -- on average, overall -- tend to be less prepared for school, tend to be less successful academically, and are far more likely than more-privileged children to have needs that put strains on a school's resources. This is one reason that diversity is such a sought-after goal. When a school becomes popular with families across the income spectrum, it tends to increase diversity and reduce the likelihood of the situation in which a critical mass of high-need children will overwhelm the school.

    In our time, a lot of white middle-class (and up) families we knew filed applications to SFUSD but were really focused on private school. If they didn't get Clarendon or Lilienthal in the first round, they didn't pursue it and turned their full attention to their private-school applications. Now it seems like their counterparts in this generation really, really mean it when they apply to SFUSD schools. That has meant the process is harder for parents who stick it out in serious pursuit of a chosen school, but is also increasing the number of popular schools.

    I know it's stressful and scary for families facing the process now, but I see our school district really turning around and bringing back the middle class, which gives me hope and joy, apt sentiments for the season.

  10. The good news? The more folks who are looking for a public school, the better they all become.

    Best of luck everyone!

  11. 11:09:

    Or this time next year, you'll be applying for the first grade lottery and trying to navigate the new assignment system.

    I agree that most people do end up being satisfied with what they get, but not all of us do (I still know many people who never got into a school off of the waitpool, and many of those schools were neighborhood, not very high in demand schools. In fact, as it turned out, some of the higher in demand schools --Miraloma, Grattan, Lilianthal-- opened up quite a bit after the 10 day count!).

    Anyway, I don't mean to bring anybody down... but I still hate the "it all works out for everyone in the end" mantra, which turned out to not be true for so many families I know.

    Choose your choices wisely! If you'd really be just as happy with a lower-demand school, put it first!

  12. I'd still like to try to survey how many families it truly, truly doesn't work out for. I just don't know of a way to do that.

    Of those posting here who have identified their situation, I know we have one who really likes the school but can't deal with the logistics (hours, distance) and has had no luck getting a closer school.

    We have one who held out (and is still hoping) for one of the very most oversubscribed schools in the district.

    We have one whose kids are settled in a school for which they had hopes but aren't satisfied with; they've been trying and trying, unsuccessfully, to transfer to a preferred school.

    It's complex. I don't know of any families who are just plain stuck in a troubled school that's not working out for them and are having no luck getting out of it -- does anyone?

    I'm certainly one of the parents who has promoted the mantra that it works out for everyone in the end, IF they stick it out through the process. But in my kids' era, I do think more families (in our demographic) were much more focused on private, and a huge percentage of middle-class families dropped out early on and went off to private. That meant less competition for those who didn't do that. Now our younger counterparts are more likely to be determined to stay in the public-school system, which makes things harder in some ways. But it's improving the schools!

  13. Give it a rest, already. sheesh

  14. Peace, joy and goodwill to you too, 11:01 -- and to one and all.

  15. Elizabeth (who has yet to write a full review!)December 26, 2008 at 6:06 PM

    We've found seven SFUSD schools that we like and turned in applications for four private schools - I hope that, with 11 schools, we'll get something that will work.

    An earlier commenter felt that all of the schools he/she toured were good. I feel the same way. We included a mix of high demand and hidden gem schools, and we found that all of them have strengths and weaknesses.

    However screwed up the lottery system is, we do appreciate the opportunity to apply to more than a neighborhood school. I can't imagine what it would be like to attempt buying or renting a house in a neighborhood with the 'good' schools. That seems much more stressful.

  16. I got into a top private and started my kid there. I never intended to have nerves of steel. But then the economy tanked and took me with it. Staying in the private would have taken nerves of steel.

    So when I got my call in October (!) offering me a spot, I grabbed it.

    I am so glad now! I would be sunk if not for free public school. And I now have come full circle. I believe with all my heart that in the early grades, unless if you have money to burn, private school is not worth it!

    Sure it's great. But it's not so much better that it's worth the agony of shoveling out that cash.

    Like, I'm sure a brand new BMW is a great car, but driving a twenty year old dependable Mercedes that's paid for an occasionally needs a tune up is far more responsible.

  17. 8:28 here... I meant to type, when I got a call from the SFUSD in October of all times, some nine weeks into the school year, offering me a spot at my waitlist near-top public school, I jumped at the chance.

  18. One optimistic sign: we've already got a slot in a very solid Catholic school.

    I'd have thought the Catholic schools would be heavily oversubscribed given the cl**sterf**k of the SFUSD application process last year, and the downturn in the economy (which would push some people out of considering your +$18k/yr privates).

    The fact that this Catholic school wasn't being heavily oversubscribed I took as a sign that the number of kinder applicants may be not be as heavy as last year.

  19. We got an early offer at a Catholic school too which is a huge relief. The principal said they normally wait until Jan. when they have enough applicants to make it worth their while to hold K assessments all day on weekends but that this year they had so many applications that they just did a round of assessments in early Dec. and made offers last week. He said they didn't see any point in making families wait into Feb. or March.

  20. I am holding my breath hoping that we can get our #1 public choice as it hasn't appeared on any lists here yet.